For those of you who are fascinated by archiving, such as collecting old photos, you are sure to enjoy reading “Children Walk on Chairs to Cross a Flooded Schoolyard” by Patrick Rosal.
Anyone who is still interested in writing their own poem reflecting on a picture from their past can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our earlier blog post, “Honoring American Archives Month” will provide you with the necessary details.
We look forward to reading your submissions, and hope that Rosal’s poem sparks your creativity!
Children Walk on Chairs to Cross a Flooded Schoolyard by: Patrick Rosal Taytay, Rizal Province, Philippines (based on the photo by Noel Celis) Hardly anything holds the children up, each poised mid-air, barely the ball of one small foot kissing the chair’s wood, so they don’t just step across, but pause above the water. I look at that cotton mangle of a sky, post-typhoon, and presume it’s holding something back. In this country, it’s the season of greedy gods and the several hundred cathedrals worth of water they spill onto little tropic villages like this one, where a girl is likely to know the name of the man who built every chair in her school by hand, six of which are now arranged into a makeshift bridge so that she and her mates can cross their flooded schoolyard. Boys in royal blue shorts and red rain boots, the girls brown and bare-toed in starch white shirts and pleated skirts. They hover like bells that can choose to withhold their one clear, true bronze note, until all this nonsense of wind and drizzle dies down. One boy even reaches forward into the dark sudden pool below toward someone we can’t see, and at the same time, without looking, seems to offer the tips of his fingers back to the smaller girl behind him. I want the children ferried quickly across so they can get back to slapping one another on the neck and cheating each other at checkers. I’ve said time and time again I don’t believe in mystery, and then I’m reminded what it’s like to be in America, to kneel beside a six-year-old, to slide my left hand beneath his back and my right under his knees, and then carry him up a long flight of stairs to his bed. I can feel the fine bones, the little ridges of the spine with my palm, the tiny smooth stone of the elbow. I remember I’ve lifted a sleeping body so slight I thought the whole catastrophic world could fall away. I forget how disaster works, how it can turn a child back into glistening butterfish or finches. And then they’ll just do what they do, which is teach the rest of us how to move with such natural gravity. Look at these two girls, center frame, who hold out their arms as if they’re finally remembering they were made for other altitudes. I love them for the peculiar joy of returning to earth. Not an ounce of impatience. This simple thrill of touching ground.